At the Station
a warm breeze in one window
and out the other
The train T number 7766 … is leaving in no time. Will passengers please get on board. I can’t catch where the train is going, and since I’ve already missed one train today, I double-check the number on my ticket.
A large mounted screen in the waiting area is showing a travel promotion for Turkey’s Blue Coast. A European woman skips in slow motion through Miletus, her white diaphanous dress soft-lifted by a breeze. Later she leans over the railing of a gulet, her hair and make up picture perfect, and gazes across the sparkling water.
I’ve been there, swum there, and the water is nipple-puckering cold. I doubt the actress goes swimming in her free time. Alexander the Great seized Miletus in a great battle, according to historians and brochure writers. I wonder if he could swim. Was swimming a sport or pastime in the 4th century BCE?
Chinese men huddle beneath the no-smoking sign in the bathroom and puff as if cigarettes are about to disappear mysteriously from the face of the earth. These men have the look of men who are used to slow trains that stop at every station. Every gesture calculated to fill the time.
Everything is slightly slower than normal, a good speed for propaganda. Too fast and everyone suspects a lie. Too slow and the lie is easily exposed. There she goes, but too fast, her bathing suit a white blur in the blue water.
Around the station several stalls sell Yunnan ham, whole legs in clear plastic cases with convenient handles. On the platform it looks like a convention of ukulele nuts. Or gangsters, the 1930s type, with machine guns in violin cases.
Another train is about to leave in no time. Could be mine. I’ve already seen more of the world than Alexander. I’ve flown and taken trains. I can swim. He didn’t even know what BCE stood for. It stood for nothing. He was a man of his time, but now he’s stuck in the past. I’m stuck at the train station.
a noodle slips back
into my bowl